Hike the Independence Trail

Independence Trail

The Independence Trail is the country's first recognized wheelchair accessible wilderness trail! Distance: If you want to do the entire trail from the west starting point to the eastern end it is a total of 3.1 miles. Wheelchair accessible for 1.5 miles. Independence Trail West 1.0 miles. Independence Trail East 2.1 miles. Duration: 45 min-2 hours each way. Elevation gain: ~50 feet. Type of trail: can be done out and back or as a loop in the western portion. A loop back from the river at the end of the East trail on Hoyte's Trail to the highway 49 bridge crossing can also be done as an alternative return route. Distance: 0.9 miles.

Starting from the free easy access parking lot right off highway 49 you head left up the trail. You will notice two trails side by side, one wider path for wheelchair access and another slightly narrower path for hikers on foot.

The trail is set on the cliff side overlooking the South Fork of the Yuba River and has many scenic view points along the way. Much of the trail is shaded by lush vegetation and wildflowers during the spring so you are somewhat protected from the hot sun. As the path continues you gain about 10 feet per mile or about 50 feet total but the elevation gain is barely noticeable and the trail remains well maintained and fairly flat.

You will cross over several man made foot bridges and under one natural stone arch which makes for a fun and engaging atmosphere.

There are a few picnic spots along the way with a picnic table if you choose to have your lunch or a snack at this point. Otherwise at the end of the East Independence Trail you can take the trail to the left (or down hill) to access the river. This part of the trail is somewhat steep and sliding at some points is prone. Overall a manageable descent and the reward is definitely worth while.

Once at the river side you can choose to claim a spot right off the trailhead or do a little rock scrambling up or down river to get a more secluded spot and your own pools to swim in. Bathing suits are optional at this swim spot so enjoy some much needed sun soaking or remember to pack a pair of shades!

When you've had enough, you can retrace your steps or head across stream and hike back along the trail on the opposite shore, which is Hoyte's Trail and will lead you back to the highway 49 bridge crossing. From there hike back along the road to the Independence Trail parking lot about a half mile.

Don't forget to stop in the charming Nevada City on your way home to enjoy the historic downtown setting, occasional live music, many fine restaurants and sweet treat shops where you can splurge on artisan chocolates and ice cream after a hot day in the sun!

Pack List

  • Day pack
  • Water
  • Beverages and snacks or packed lunch
  • Sunscreen
  • Camera
  • Waterproof case (optional)
  • Bathing suit (optional)
  • Water shoes and snorkel (optional)
  • Climbing shoes for routes along the river (optional)
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Activities Chillin, Photography, Swimming, Hiking, Rock Climbing
Skill Level Beginner
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Features
Bathrooms
Beach
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Groups
Handicap Accessible
Picnic Area
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Worth The Hike!

We wanted a mix of hiking a river which is why we picked this spot near grass valley. We took the east trail based on the directions in the description and I'd like to try the west trail and see where that leads, because by the time we reached the river we'd gone almost 3 miles. By the time we reached the river we realized what all the hype was about; crystal clear water, gentle current, nestled in between the gorgeous hills. I did discover that many people don't wear suits here- so keep that in mind if that makes you uncomfortable.

Awesome

Took the west trail toward the Yuba river and it was breathtaking. Next time I'll take the east trail.

Gentle, Shaded, And Magical

We took the East side of the trail and it was a gentle, hike, carved out with trees on both sides. There are several small bridges and some longer more elaborate and impressive bridges. So much work and love was put into this trail to make it wheelchair accessible. We got to the end of the trail, and then rock scrambled down toward the water. A bit treacherous to hike down, and hard on the thighs on the way back up, but so worth it. Hung out by a waterfall with a man made tunnel to the other side of the trail. Stunning views, and great spots to stop and relax sling the way


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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